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Game-Savvy Judge Saves the Day for Baseball at Wrigley

March 26, 1985|From Times Wire Services

The judge is obviously a well-read fan of baseball, day baseball.

With baseball language spicing his 64-page ruling, Circuit Judge Richard Curry declared Monday in Chicago that state and city laws which ban night baseball at Wrigley Field are not unconstitutional.

The ruling means that the Chicago Cubs will continue to be the only major league baseball team that doesn't play night games because Wrigley Field does not and will not have lights.

"Yes, you're out. O-U-T. The Cubs are out," Curry said Monday in his ruling, which included lyrics from "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

The ruling concluded with the line: "Justice is a southpaw, and the Cubs just don't hit lefties!"

Curry's ruling came in response to a suit filed in December by The Tribune Co. (which purchased the Cubs in 1981). The suit sought to overturn the laws that prevent the Cubs from playing night games.

But it looks as if this contest will have extra innings: The Cubs' attorneys filed a notice of appeal with the Illinois Appellate Court.

"I didn't think it was a hard case, and nothing presented since then has made me change my mind," said Curry of the three-month legal battle. "I tried to have fun with the opinion. The style may be light, but the message is a serious one."

The Tribune Co. claimed in its suit that it had been ordered by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth to install lights at the North Side ballpark or face "drastic consequences," such as moving the Cubs to another site during postseason play.

The judge reasoned: "For generations now, (Cubs') baseball fans . . . believe as an article of faith that Abner Doubleday never intended the game to be played at night; that vines and heroes grow better in the sun; that one 'Homer in the Gloamin' is worth a hundred hit into the blackness of night, and that Wrigley Field is indeed a Mecca for the baseball purist."

General Manager Dallas Green said in Mesa, Ariz., where the Cubs are in spring training, that he was "very, very disappointed" with the ruling.

While he made no reference to rumors that the Cubs would move from Wrigley Field if they couldn't get lights, he said: "We consider this very, very serious business."

Many residents, including a few Bleacher Bums, an often rowdy collection of die-hard fans, rejoiced at Curry's ruling.

"It means peace and tranquility" for the community, said Alderman Bernard Hansen, whose ward includes part of the area around the 71-year-old ballpark.

"I like baseball the way it's always been here," added Mark Sussman, 26, an electrician, who was repairing wiring at the Sports Corner Restaurant and Lounge near the park.

"You get up early some mornings when you've got nothing to do and you go to the bleachers," he added. "You watch major league baseball, you get a tan and you look at the girls in their halters. It's good."

Many residents argued night games would alleviate existing troubles like litter, noise, traffic and a shortage of parking spaces.

Attorneys for the ballclub had argued the speedy passage of a 1982 state statute and a 1983 city ordinance proved the National League team was "tried, condemned and convicted" of operating a public nuisance before being given a chance to defend itself.

"No one can seriously suggest . . . that the influx of 37,000 visitors into a residential community at night is not (much) different than those same numbers during the daylight hours," Curry said in a 64-page ruling.

The judge said the Cubs "made no assertion" that the ban on lights adversely affected attendance or gate receipts nor offered any "correlation between daytime television and nighttime television revenue potential."

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